My editor had got me an exclusive interview with Professor Hans Bunglethorpe. “I’ve never heard of Professor Bunglethorpe,” I said.
“Of course, you haven’t,” he replied. “Nobody has. You’ll be the first reporter he has agreed to talk to. Once you’ve broken the story, everyone will have heard of him.”
“He’s made a landmark discovery. He’ll be drowning in publicity”
“It sounds like a watermark discovery.”
I met Professor Bunglethorpe in a hotel salon he had reserved for the interview. Expecting a one-man show, I was surprised to find him surrounded by a cast of supporting players giggling, weeping, cheering, pacing, rocking, kneeling, and rolling on the floor. “After years of study and reflection,” Professor Bunglethorpe announced above the uproar, “I can confidently declare that there are no psychiatric disorders. There are only psychiatric differences.”
“I see that you’ve hired actors to portray them,” I said.
“They’re not actors.”
“They’ve neglected to take their medication?”
“You’re missing the point,” he said. “They don’t need medication.”
“If they don’t, I do,” I said.
“The point, my dear fellow,” he said, “is that psychiatry is catching up with how the rest of us engage reality at this stage of our evolution. Surely you must have noticed how fervently we assert equality and celebrate diversity.”
“You see that man in the corner, listening, and that woman on the floor, gazing,” I said, pointing to them in turn. “I’ll bet he hears voices and she sees things.”
“Don’t you hear voices and see things?”
“Of course I do,” I said, “but what I see and hear are real.”
“What they see and hear are real to them,” he said. “Do you, like some of them, smell words, taste shapes, see music or hear colours?”
“Never,” I said, “but if I hang around here long enough I might. I’m already beginning to feel blue.” I started to leave.
“I thought you’d be a typical member of the media-academic complex,” he said. “A properly formed reporter would eat this stuff up.”
“I’ll stay for a taste,” I said, as I didn’t fancy facing my editor empty-handed. “But don’t expect a story celebrating insanity as equal to sanity. I’m not about to compromise my reportorial objectivity.”
“Objectivity, my dear fellow, is passé,” he said. “Thanks to developments in philosophy, subjectivity reigns.”
I braced myself for the inevitable lecture, which he delivered with professorial disdain.
“When philosophers declared the primacy of will over intellect,” he said, “the shackles that intellect bound us with were loosened and freedom was destined to prevail. Hence, emotion now trumps reason, subjectivity trumps objectivity, rights trump duties and choice trumps principle.”
“May I quote you as saying that your discovery is trumped up?” I asked.
“Thanks to Kinsey,” he continued, ignoring the question, “sexuality is leading the way. Thanks to Bunglethorpe, mentality is sure to follow.”
I couldn’t help thinking that he might be right. Sexual orientations and activities that we used to censure, even criminalize, we now applaud and privilege.
“Exactly,” he said, when I conceded the point. “More important, we required no convincing new evidence or arguments to produce the change. Emotion and choice did it.”
“Since you didn’t actually refute the evidence and arguments supporting the censure,” I said, “you seem to imply that they remain intellectually sound.”
“My dear fellow,” he said, “they’re as intellectually sound as they ever were. They’re just no longer willfully sound. Take, for example, heterosexual versus homosexual orientation. It’s obvious that men and women complement each other for their mutual benefit and for the propagation and nurture of the human race. To look at our bodies and think otherwise contradicts reason and experience. We who proclaim the equality of different sexual orientations are not stupid.”
“You’re just acting stupid?”
“On the contrary,” he said, “we’re asserting the primacy of choice over principle. We don’t choose our positions because they are right. Our positions are right because we choose them. Will has dethroned intellect, remember.”
“I see what you mean,” I said. “If we who disagree with you are to prevail, we have to fire at will.”
“Oh, you can continue to reason that opposite-sex unions are naturally ordered to human fulfillment and same-sex unions are disordered. You can also continue to reason that sanity is superior to insanity. But we post moderns no longer listen to reason. We respond to emotion. That’s why we don’t muster new evidence and arguments. Instead, we muster new epithets, like homophobe, sexist, mentalist … “
“Mentalist?” I interrupted.
“An epithet I’ve appropriated to censure anyone who denies the equality of all mental states.” He smiled broadly, no doubt pleased with the literary coup.
“Professor Bunglethorpe,” I said at length, “you’ve convinced me.”
“That all mental states are equal?”
“That objectivity is passé. I’m not going to write a news story. I’m going to write an opinion piece. My opinion is that compared to you, your supporting players are models of sanity.”